I just returned from visiting my Mom and Dad for a couple of weeks, and since my father has a lot of health problems now, part of the reason for the visit was simply to be a help around the house . So while I was enjoying their company, I also ran errands, shopped for groceries, picked the garden, washed the laundry, made meals, and kept up with generally any chore that I could think of. The tasks weren’t difficult and I was glad to do what I could, but the primary obstacle to overcome was actually getting Mom to let me do the work.
I think I may have a little of that base programming too. If I’m honest, I don’t much like to accept help either. During social gatherings, I like doing all the decorating, cooking, cleaning and preparations. Of course lots of people offer to pitch in, and I do appreciate the company, but to be honest, most of the time I do it myself. It’s not so much a control issue as it is that I don’t want to impose on others to do something I am capable of accomplishing on my own.
That sort of self-reliance is an impulse that is often praiseworthy, but it can sometimes present problems. Scripture places a lot of the emphasis on learning to be generous in giving to others (Luke 6:38; 2 Cor 9:7; Heb. 13:16; 1 Tim. 5:8 etc), but we also don’t need to neglect the discipline of becoming good receivers as well.
Think about how you respond. If someone gives you a compliment, do you feel uncomfortable? How do you react to an overly generous gift? Do you try to ‘pay back’ good deeds done for you? Have you tried to rebuff or refuse rather than graciously receive?
While it might feel more natural to decline that which you don’t feel worthy to receive, it’s important to remember that when you refuse genuine and heartfelt gifts, you unintentionally deny the other person the joy that naturally comes from giving at the same time.
It’s still hot and humid at my house, but autumn isn’t far away, and it won’t be long until we’re covered up by Christmas decorations and assault of carols playing in every public place. So in advance of the gift-giving (and gift receiving) season, it’s a good time to take a lesson from my late summer visit to my Mom’s. Here are a few practical tips to becoming a good receiver.
Pay Attention – When you’re offered an unexpected gift or service, there is a reason. Listen carefully to what’s being said, and why the person felt motivated to give. Notice body language, facial expression, and the meaning behind the words. Actually read cards and notes carefully to learn more about the heart behind the gift.
Choose Your Words Carefully – Surprise gifts or acts of service can make us feel awkward, but don’t apologize that you don’t have a similar gift or attempt to refuse. Resist the temptation to change the subject or ignore what’s been done. Allow yourself to feel …and express… happiness. Remember that your joyful response is a gift back to the giver!
Don’t Settle the Score – Ever been in a gifting contest? You know, someone gives to you, now you have to give to them … someone does you a favor, now you have to do one in return? True generosity isn’t a competition to be won. Don’t analyze what you receive based on size, cost or effort exerted. While, at some point, you may respond in kind, it should never be out of obligation. Receive humbly and don’t turn a good deed in to a burden.
Be Grateful for What is Most Important – The person who gives to you already feels a connection. Take the moment of exchange as an opportunity to state not only your gratitude for the specific gift or service, but to affirm your relationship to the giver. Make sure your words communicate that you are most grateful for the impact he or she has in your life, and just say Thank You!
Be Aware of Root Causes – Sometimes the underlying issue that motivates us to resist is plain old P.R.I.D.E. We are too proud of our own self-sufficiency… too proud of our abilities… too proud to admit that we need help… and too proud to allow ourselves to feel in debt to others for what we feel is too generous. While that sort of attitude can limit our enjoyment of the blessings of others, and hurt the feelings of those around us, the bigger issue is that we often apply this kind of resistant attitude to God. He offers you the most extravagant and undeserved gift ever given through the sacrifice of Jesus. With an open hand, He extends to you forgiveness of sin, restoration of your soul, and everlasting life. (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8) To possess it, you only need to set aside pride, humble yourself, acknowledge your need, and gratefully receive what He offers.
Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name,
He gave the right to become children of God. ~ John 1:12